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2007 » March MikeFitz with overflow bit set…

Archive for March, 2007

Where’s Chuck?

Friday, March 30th, 2007

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Microsoft mate, Chuck Sterling is also going to Code Camp Oz.  He is driving down from the Gold Coast.  As I write this, he will be in Newcastle, and after Code Camp, he is driving down to Hobart.  All up, he’s going to be on the road for a couple of weeks.

Now Chuck has his mobile phone with him.  Every now and then, if it is turned on, Chuck’s phone will check in with the nearest mobile phone tower.  Theoretically, one could enquire on Telstra’s mobile phone network and find out which tower was servicing Chuck’s phone right now.  Theoretically, if one knew the exact latitude and longitude of each mobile phone tower, one could plot Chuck’s position on a Virtual Earth map of Australia.  Theoretically…

Well theorize no more!  It’s been done.  Click this link to see where Chuck is right now.  Way cool.  (In many parts of Australia, you may have to zoom out 4 levels to see aerial photos.)

More information about the guys at Power Business Systems who have built this, over at Chuck’s Blog.  (Hmmm… thinks… I wonder how much Chuck’s boss, Frank would pay for this info?)

———————
Update: Mon 2 Apr 07
Chuck skived off early from Code Camp yesterday so he could get to Melbourne in time for the overnight ferry to Tasmania.  Here he is this morning just south of Devonport, approaching Launceston, on his way to his next .NET user group meeting in Hobart.

And speaking of skiving off, where’s Chuck’s boss, Frank, this fine Monday morning?

Where's Frank?

Off to Code Camp Oz 2007

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

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Code Camp Oz  		    Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga  		    31 Mar, 1 AprilOff to Code Camp Oz on Friday.  Woo-Hoo!

Fri 30 Mar: afternoon flight Brisbane to Canberra (QF2567).  Pick up vehicle at airport; late drive to Wagga Wagga.  If anyone needs a lift from Canberra to Wagga Wagga, contact me.

Sat 31 Mar, Sun 1 Apr: Code Camp Oz - an event organised by the Australian .NET developer community, bringing together software developers from across Australia.  Two solid days featuring Australia’s top .NET speakers, many of whom are international experts in their fields.  Location: Charles Sturt University campus at Wagga Wagga.

Late Sun 1 Apr: Drive back to Canberra.  Evening flights Canberra to Sydney (QF1490) and Sydney to Brisbane (QF552).

Toilet paper rolls: Under or Over?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

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Gold Coast blogger, SurferCam asks the hard-hitting questions “Fold or Scrunch?”.  In the comments, Sydney blogger Hunii has brought up the Under vs Over debate…

I once heard a radio interview with Cheryl Kernot, at that time, a Democrat Senator.  The interviewer’s final question was “Toilet paper rolls: Under or Over?”  Cheryl immediately got the joke and launched into the consummate politician’s answer to every question, “I’m glad you asked that question.  It’s something of great importance to the everyday lives of all Australians.  Blah… blah… blah…”

But really, it’s the wrong question.  The world is not divided into “Unders” and “Overs”.  Instead, the world is divided into:

  1. Those who think about what they are doing; and therefore get it right (Overs)
  2. Those who have no idea what they are doing.  These folks will get it right 50% of the time, depending entirely on which way the roll comes out of the packet.

This last group sometimes have good days and sometimes have bad days.  On the bad days, everything conspires against them, even inanimate objects like the toilet roll holder which jams.  And they never know why.  Sadly, they never realise how much control they could have over their own lives, if only they used their brains.

We all know these people exist.  Every time you see your toilet roll in the “Under” configuration, there’s the evidence.  One of them has been near you.

OK, I’ll stop now.  (*Flushing sound*)

Dealing with WebCity support

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

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This blog (mike.brisgeek.com) is (or was) hosted by Webcity.

Last Friday evening at about 19:00, my account was suddenly suspended WITHOUT ANY NOTICE.  All any visitors saw was a message that said “This Account Has Been Suspended.  Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible.”  They offer NO telephone support at all outside 8:30am to 6pm Mon-Fri.

Our account payment is up-to-date. We had no idea what had gone wrong and no way of contacting anybody to get it fixed.

It has been a struggle, but Webcity support have now enabled my blog’s home page but it appears no other pages (including comments pages) are working.  Please stand by…

———————
Update: 13:50 Sunday
Looks like we are back up again.  The hosting is cheap.  We got what we paid for.

———————
Update: Monday
Apparently I was bumped off because my WordPress installation was using 90% of the CPU.  Unfortunately, I’ve got no idea what caused it.  Even worse, I’ve got no idea what I apparently did to fix it and be allowed back on.  And finally, in a mammoth display of excellent customer service, I’ve been threatened with eviction if I do “it” again, whatever “it” is/was.  I feel so reassured.

———————
Update: Thursday
All’s well that ends well.  See the comments below from WebCity Guy.

Rego Numbers != Primary Keys

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

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Ever walked into a carpark and seen a car very similar to yours?  Same make and model?  Same REGISTRATION NUMBER??

This is exactly what has happened to Abu Dhabi blogger, Oriental Arabesque (a friend of a friend, Samer Al Ramahi in Amman*.)

The only difference in the registration plates is the background colour of the centre section.  (Software developers reading this will have fallen off their chairs at the opening paragraph.  Graphic designers will be gasping for air about now.  And speedsters will be thinking, Wouldn’t it be sweet if my speed camera fines went to someone else?)

Duplicate Primary Keys, anyone?

This is reminiscent of my experience leading a team which developed a system for my state’s Transport Department.  The system was to track taxi vouchers.  These vouchers were issued by the Health Dept to old and infirm people who were not disabled enough to need an ambulance but were unable to catch public transport to medical appointments.  Patients used the vouchers to pay for their taxi trips to hospital and drivers then submitted the vouchers to the Transport Dept for reimbursement.

Of course, each voucher was identified by a unique serial number.  One part of our system recorded the voucher number against the patient name as they were issued.  Another part recorded the voucher number against the taxi driver as they were submitted for reimbursement.

Everything went swimmingly for a few years.  At any time we could tell how many vouchers were in circulation and how old they were.  With our unique voucher number as a primary key, we could detect data entry errors and fraud attempts.  Life was sweet, until…

One day, they ran out of vouchers.  No problemo.  We’ll just print some more, they said.  Now, what number should we start at when printing the new vouchers?  I know!  Let’s start at 1!

We had to mangle our system to allow data entry of duplicate voucher numbers, but only 2 duplicates, and no more.  Data entry performance took a major hit, and we looked like the culprits.  Aaargh!

Technical papers from nutcases make the best reading

At about this time, I was also helping organise an international conference.  All these erudite technical papers come in from practitioners and academics.  These have to be reviewed, accepted and printed in the conference proceedings.  1% of these will be from pranksters who are just pulling your leg.  It’s important to spot these and weed them out.  Another 1% will be from genuine fruitcakes and these papers are the real gems.

One such fruitcake wanted to alert the world that it was dangerous to get your photo taken for your driver’s licence.  “The Government” was doing more than just taking your photo.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, “The Government” was implanting a number IN YOUR BRAIN, right behind your forehead.  And this number was 666, the Mark of the Beast.

Now, implicit in the above assertion, was the fact that everyone got the same number.  Our programmer, Robert MacGregor (Where are you these days, Rob?) who did the hard yards on the aforementioned duplicate taxi voucher data entry programs, said “Pfft! Transport Department! That’d be right.  Everybody gets the same Primary Key!

———————
Afterthought: I wonder if the guy who was responsible for printing the duplicate taxi vouchers was banished to Abu Dhabi where he is now working in the Transport Department.

———————
* Go on, pay Samer a visit. He has recently become engaged and now shares his blog with his fiancee, “Mrs. Al Ramahi”. It’s always encouraging to know that people on the other side of the planet from different cultures have the same hopes and dreams that we do.

Larissa Waters - Qld Greens Senate preselection candidate

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

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Australia’s most significant Federal Election in a decade is approaching.  It must take place some time between 4 August 2007 and 19 January 2008.  This election is significant because it should mark the end of 12 years of decline in our democracy, presided over by “Dishonest John”.

Forgive my soap-boxing, but personally, I have yet to forgive Dishonest John for his cynical manipulation of the 1998 Republic referendum question.  But there have been worse fibs.  WA blogger Archie has put together a deliberately dispassionate record of some of Dishonest John’s bigger porkies; “Never-Ever GST”, “Children Overboard”, “WMDs”.

Now, some of us live in marginal electorates and may rejoice in our ability to influence the outcome.  On the other hand, some of us live in “safe” seats and may despair that our votes don’t count for much.  But this time, no matter which seat we live in, we ALL have an important vote to cast - IN THE SENATE.

If we have learned only one thing from this last term of the Howard government, it’s how dangerous it is to deliver an absolute Senate majority to the party who controls the lower house as well.

Qld Greens Senate preselection

Larissa Waters photoThis month, in preparation for the upcoming election, the Queensland Greens are selecting their Senate candidates.  And our good friend and environmental lawyer, Larissa Waters has put up her hand.  It was Larissa who performed so well against Premier Peter Beattie in his seat of Brisbane Central in the last State election.  Larissa gained a 6% swing, the largest swing to a Green in that election.  Check out her website at http://www.larissawaters.net.

I know Larissa is passionate about not only the environment but also social justice issues which affect us all as citizens.  I know that, if elected to the Senate, Larissa will make the right decisions for my country and our planet.

Kylie Hood: Cambodian Photography

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

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Child in Slums of Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump, Cambodia - Photography by Kylie Hood

A very good friend, Kylie Hood, has just returned from Cambodia with some remarkable photos.  I particularly liked these, taken in the slums of Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump.

Children in Slums of Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump, Cambodia - Photography by Kylie Hood
Children in Slums of Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump, Cambodia
Photography by Kylie Hood

Kylie has created an on-line gallery displaying a selection of her Cambodian photos.

And, Yes.  She is a professional photographer.  Kylie’s Portfolio displays a variety of styles; Architecture, Food, Commercial.  She can even make IT guys in suits look good.

But her passion is PEOPLE!  My family and Kylie’s were fortunate to travel through Jordan and Egypt in 2005.  When most of us were taking happy snaps of Roman ruins, crusader castles and pharoahs’ pyramids, Kylie always had her camera pointed in the opposite direction capturing people at work and play, along with their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows.

Here are some of the “People” photos taken on that trip.

Have a look at the Kylie Hood Photography web site for some remarkable “People” photos.  The images of homeless people she captured for Mission Australia’s calendar are breathtaking.

Aussie base in Iraq WIPED OUT! - by Google

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

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Last September I wrote this other post which included this Google Satellite Image of the Ziggurat of Ur.

Google Image of the Ziggurat of Ur Google Satellite Image of the Ziggurat of Ur

The Ziggurat is just north of the massive US-operated Tallil air base in the southern Iraqi province of Dhi Qar.  This is where the Australian Task Group (the majority of Australia’s forces in Iraq) are currently stationed.  See Operation Catalyst.

My instructions in September were…

Click on the image above and look at the area around the Ziggurat  …  zoom out a couple of levels and then pan south until you will see the air base.  Note the odd crater in the ground, made around the time the previous users were persuaded to leave.

If you had followed these instructions in September, you would have seen the air base swarming with aircraft, helicopters and vehicles. You would also have seen rows and rows of barracks, workshops, stores and mess huts.  I’m guessing you may even have seen the shadow of a Golden Arches sign.

Follow these instructions today and you will see imagery that looks decidedly pre-2003.  No sign at all of the US or Australian encampment.

Now, I’m not normally a fan of censorship on the net, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.  It appears, the bad guys have been using Google Maps to acquire targets inside coalition bases.

In January, British troops in Basra arrested an insurgent who was found with a Google Earth map of the Shatt Al Arab base, home for 1,000 British soldiers.  Following representations from the British government, Google seems to have reverted to pre-2003 imagery for all militarily-sensitive areas in Iraq.